The Philadelphia 76ers finally pulled off the long-rumored Ben Simmons-for-James Harden trade at the deadline this year, but due to Harden's sore hamstring and the All-Star break, they had to wait a while for him to make his debut. The patience has more than paid off.
Harden has had a borderline perfect start with his new club. After going for 27 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, he made history by putting up 29 points, 10 rebounds, 16 assists and five steals as the Sixers pulled away from the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon for 125-109 victory.
In the process, Harden became the first player in NBA history to put up at least 25 points and 10 assists in each of his first two games with a team. Furthermore, he became the first player in Sixers franchise history to have at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists and five steals in a game.
Any concerns that may have been floating around out there about how Harden and Joel Embiid, who scored 37 points Sunday against the Knicks, would fit together have quickly been wiped away. Even if you want to argue that things won't be quite as easy against better competition, it's clear that this is going to be a dynamite pairing.
Both players are more than capable of carrying an offense by themselves, so you can stagger them and always have an MVP-level talent on the floor. And when you play them together they only make things easier for each other. As Embiid said after Harden's first game, "I've never been so wide open in my whole career."
Plus, the two are already showing some nice chemistry on the pick-and-roll, and good luck once they really figure that out. Embiid is so big and such a terrific screener that they're often going to wind up with Harden going downhill playing two-on-one. Just check out these possessions from the end of the first half.
Here they run a simple pick-and-roll in semi-transition, Mitchell Robinson steps to Harden and he delivers a perfect pocked pass to Embiid for an and-one:
A minute later they ran another pick-and-roll in the middle of the floor. This time Julius Randle doesn't commit to Harden so he gets all the way to the rim for a layup:
Of course, you can't talk about this game or these two players without mentioning the free throws. Embiid went 23 of 27 from the line against the Knicks, shooting the most free throws of any player in a game this year, while Harden went 10 of 10. Together they've shot 59 free throws in their first two games together, and it's clear that's going to be a massive problem for other teams.
Asked about the budding partnership after the win over the Knicks, Embiid needed just one word: "unstoppable." After the early returns, that's hard to argue.